U releases new wheat variety

The new wheat is named for a city in west central Minnesota.

by Katie Wieglos

The University of Minnesota has developed a new wheat variety with enhanced performance compared to other breeds. After about 10 years of testing, the wheat, called âÄúSabin,âÄù was determined to be a high-yielding grain with resistance to diseases, said Jim Anderson, professor in agronomy and plant genetics. âÄúThis variety is a good combination of both characteristics,âÄù Jim Anderson said. The Sabin breed was successfully tested across Minnesota as well as in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Canada. It will be widely available for wheat growers in 2010, Jim Anderson said. Wheat breeders focus mainly on resistance to leaf rust and other fungal diseases, Jim Anderson said, because these have the largest impact on successful wheat growth in Minnesota. Along with disease resistance, the increased grain yield found in Sabin has high levels of protein and contains good properties for mixing dough, Jim Anderson said. âÄúIt makes a good loaf of bread,âÄù he said. Despite the benefits of Sabin, it also has drawbacks, such as its weak straw strength, which makes harvesting more difficult for growers. This is a fairly minor disadvantage, said Jochum Wiersma , a small grains extension agronomist at the UniversityâÄôs Crookston campus. âÄúYou always have to compromiseâÄù when breeding wheat, he said. âÄúThereâÄôs no such thing as an ideal variety.âÄù The Sabin variety was named after a small town in west central Minnesota where the new wheat successfully showed resistance to a fungal disease called Fusarium Head Blight during trials in 2005. Tom Anderson âÄî no relation to Jim Anderson âÄî was a wheat grower and activist who owned the Sabin-area farm where the new variety was tested. He fought for wheat research funding at both the state and national level before his death in 2007. Wiersma, who conducted the new wheat trials, said that Tom AndersonâÄôs efforts were crucial to the survival of the wheat industry in Minnesota. âÄúWe at the University owe him a lot of gratitude,âÄù Wiersma said. The Sabin name âÄúis one way we can commemorate his contributions.âÄù The fate of the new wheat is currently unknown, Wiersma said. ItâÄôs up to the marketplace and the growersâÄô experience with it to decide if âÄúa variety becomes truly successful,âÄù he said. The University wheat breeding program has been in operation for over 100 years. About 300 breed crosses are made annually. On average, a new wheat variety is released every one or two years. David Torgerson, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Wheat Growers , said varieties released by the University generally get better and more diverse each year. âÄúThe wheat growers really depend on the University for new wheat varieties that help improve their production,âÄù Torgerson said.